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VACCINE

Germany suspends use of AstraZeneca vaccine over blood clot concerns

The Germany Health Ministry said on Monday it was suspending use of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine based on a recommendation of its vaccine agency.

Germany suspends use of AstraZeneca vaccine over blood clot concerns
Photo: Sebastian Kahnert/DPA

“After new reports of thromboses of the cerebral veins in connection with the vaccination in Germany and Europe, the PEI considers further investigations to be necessary,” said the German health ministry, referring to a recommendation by the country’s vaccine authority, the Paul Ehrlich Institute.

“The European Medicines Agency EMA will decide whether and how the new findings will affect the approval of the vaccine,” it added.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Monday that a causal connection “cannot be completely ruled out.”

Spahn explained that the suspension was a “purely precautionary measure” and added that he expected a decision on the safety of the vaccine to be made by the European Medicines Agency within the next week. 

READ ALSO: Which countries in Europe have suspended AstraZeneca vaccinations?

Seven cases of cerebral vein thrombosis had been reported, Spahn said, and while this is a “very low risk” compared to the 1.6 million jabs already given in the country, it would be above average if confirmed to be linked to the vaccine.

“This was a scientific decision and not a political one. In making it we have followed the advice of the Paul Ehrlich Institute,” Spahn said.

He also confirmed that the suspension affected both first and second doses with the vaccine, adding that second doses could be given after the European Medicine Agency had reviewed the concerns over blood clots.

Several European countries, including Ireland and the Netherlands, have suspended usage of the shots, which were jointly developed with the University of Oxford.

Both the British-Swedish company and Oxford have said there was no link between their vaccine and blood clotting.

The World Health Organization, Europe’s medicines watchdog, governments and experts have stressed that no causal link has been established between the vaccine and blood clotting and insisted that the vaccine is safe.

An AstraZeneca spokesman said it had found no evidence of increased risk of blood clot conditions after analysing reported cases from more than 17 million doses.

“In fact, the reported numbers of these types of events for COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca are lower than the number that would have occurred naturally in the unvaccinated population,” said the spokesman.

Precautionary move

Norwegian health officials reported three more cases of blood clots or brain haemorrhages in younger people who received the AstraZeneca Covid-19 jab, but said they could not yet say they were vaccine-related.

READ MORE: Why have tens of thousands of Germany’s AstraZeneca vaccines not been used?

The Norwegian Medicines Agency said similar incidents had been reported in other European countries. While there was no proof of a link to the vaccine, anyone under 50 who felt unwell and developed large blue patches after vaccination should seek medical attention.

The World Health Organization said no causal link had been established between the vaccine and blood clotting after Denmark, Norway and Iceland on Thursday temporarily suspended the use of the vaccine over concerns about patients developing post-jab blood clots.

A number of other countries have also suspended use of vaccines from one batch.

The manufacturer and Europe’s medicines watchdog have meanwhile insisted that the vaccine is safe.

Denmark was first to announce its suspension, although it stressed that the move was precautionary, and that “it has not been determined, at the time being, that there is a link between the vaccine and the blood clots”.

On Saturday, the Norwegian Medicines Agency said it had “received several adverse event reports about younger vaccinated people with bleeding under the skin (tiny dots and /or larger blue patches) after coronavirus vaccination.

“This is serious and can be a sign of reduced blood platelet counts,” it said.

“Today, we received three more reports of severe cases of blood clots or brain haemorrhages in younger people who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine. These are now receiving hospital treatment,” it added

Geir Bukholm, director of Infection Control and Environmental Health at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, said that following the decision to suspend the jab, it was now “the Norwegian Medicines Agency’s role to follow up on these suspected side effects and take the necessary measures”.

READ MORE: EU states seek summit on unfair vaccine handouts as AstraZeneca announce more delays

Member comments

  1. Well, I guess 2021 will be another lockdown year for the EU whereby everyone else will have normal lives again by the summer. I dispair, I honestly do. I want my life back.

    1. I feel you, Ali, I really do. It’s been brutal. Hang in there! We’ll get our lives back. 🙂

  2. Given the odds of getting a blood clot versus the odds of
    a) getting the virus
    b) loosing the will to live (yes, slight hyperbole, but some days not)
    in the context of MILLIONS of people already being safely vaccinated…

    I choose to get the AstraZeneca – here is my arm.

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COVID-19 RULES

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now

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